Sejdi Koci, the silver-haired principal of a village grade
school, was driving home earlier this month when automatic gunfire
exploded from the side of the road, shattering the windows of his
"There's not much to describe," he says, sitting on the edge of
his hospital bed in Pristina, Kosovo's capital, his neck wrapped in
bandages. "I heard shooting.... I put my hand to my throat and
drove up the road."
The attack was not without warning. Mr. Koci is the local
president of an Albanian opposition party, and he and his associates
say they receive frequent threats. On the same evening about 30
miles away near the town of Podujevo, another political activist,
Agim Valiu, also was shot and wounded.
While media attention has focused largely on violence between
ethnic Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo, UN police reports show most
violence is committed by Albanians against other Albanians, who make
up 90 percent of the population. Most of it is ordinary crime -
grabs for property or money, turf wars, domestic disputes, the
settling of old grudges. Yet Western officials and UN police believe
that a small but significant part is politically motivated. And they
expect such incidents to become more frequent in the runup to
elections set for late October.
The attacks and intimidation threaten to mar what Western
officials hope will be the next big step toward democratic self-
rule in Kosovo, the southern province of Serbia that has been under
NATO and United Nations control since June 1999.
"There's a long history of Albanian political violence," says
William Hayden, an official of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe who works in central Kosovo. "It can get
Political activists have been shot at and killed. They have been
kidnapped and beaten. They have had grenades tossed into their
yards. Their cars have been set on fire. More frequently, officials
believe, they have been threatened and intimidated.
The extent of the problem remains hidden from outsiders. But some
murders and attempted murders have led to suspicions of political
In May, Ekrem Rexha, a prominent former commander in the Kosovo
Liberation Army, the ethnic Albanian rebel force that fought Serb
rule, was gunned down outside his home in the southern city of
Prizren. Mr. Rexha had been working closely with UN officials and
had shunned the extreme nationalism of other former KLA leaders.
In late July, a bomb exploded in the yard of an activist near
Dragash, in southern Kosovo; he decided to give up politics. Last
week, at least two activists in different parts of Kosovo were shot
at in their homes.
Officials say most incidents have targeted members of the
Democratic League of Kosovo, the main ethnic Albanian party in
Kosovo since 1989. The LDK, as it is known, is the party of Ibrahim
Rugova, a scholar whose pacifist principles guided Albanian
resistance to Serb rule in Kosovo until the KLA took up arms in
1998. The party remains popular and has an extensive network of
Former fighters suspected
UN police suspect that much of the violence and intimidation has
come from former KLA members, especially those allied with Hashim
Thaci, the former KLA leader and head of the Democratic Party of
Kosovo, one of the KLA's political offshoots.
In one recent incident, the shop of an LDK activist in Mr.
Thaci's home village was sprayed with automatic gunfire - the second
such attack since November. …